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Book review: Rachel Nunes' 'Before I Say Goodbye' offers heartfelt, compelling perspective on two struggling families

By Danica Baird

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 6 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

"BEFORE I SAY GOODBYE," by Rachel Ann Nunes, Deseret Book, $17.99, 342 pages (f)

In “Before I Say Goodbye,” Rachel Nunes poignantly weaves a moving tale of redemption and love.

The novel opens with Rikki Crockett returning to her old home in Spanish Fork. Twenty years earlier she left, vowing never to return, after feeling abandoned by her best friend Dante Rushton.

However, when tragedy besets her two decades later, Rikki finds herself back in her hometown, this time with two children in tow. Rikki knows she’s messed up, but now time is short and she wants the best for her children. That means attending the ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that she grew up in, where Dante is now the bishop.

When Rikki reappears on the scene, Dante feels as if he’s seeing a ghost from his past. While Dante contemplates Rikki’s return, Rikki attempts to show Dante that his oldest son and his wife need him. If he doesn’t begin paying more attention to his family, he might end up losing them.

Meanwhile, Dante’s wife, Becca, is not so sure she’s happy with Rikki’s return. As Rikki’s family grows closer to hers, she must ask herself if Rikki and her children are a good influence on her family. Caught between her desire to befriend Rikki and her wish to keep Rikki’s troubled teenage daughter as far away from her family as possible, Becca must make the choice of how far she should go to protect her family.

“Before I Say Goodbye” powerfully tells the story of two families who are struggling with an unknown future. Rikki returned hoping that Dante would help her find a home for her children; however, Rikki might end up helping Dante save his own family.

In this novel, Nunes doesn’t gloss over the harsh realities of life, but rather places them at the center of her novel. The challenges of raising a family and of learning to make the right decisions based on faith are predominant themes.

Nunes writes in a poignant, lyrical style that is both compelling and heartbreaking. The characters are realistic, possessing goals and dreams that readers will be able to understand. As these characters face their trials, Nunes elicits an emotional response within readers.

The overarching themes of family, love, faith and redemption are always present and spark great introspection within readers. Some novels stay with readers long after they turn the last page, and “Before I Say Goodbye” is one of those books.

Nunes is a Mormon author who has published more than 30 novels, including the popular Arianna series.

Danica Baird is currently attending BYU and is pursuing a double major in English and journalism.

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